Dire predictions about poor employment prospects are not new to liberal arts students, but they may be surprised by one of the solutions College of William and Mary career counselors propose: turning English or biology degrees into consulting careers with one of the College’s corporate sponsors.
Companies have the opportunity to increase their visibility on campus in exchange for making annual financial contributions to the Sherman and Gloria H. Cohen Career Center Corporate Sponsors Program. Organizations that capitalize on these offers at the College and other universities tend to be well-endowed consulting and accounting firms looking for large numbers of potential entry-level hires.
As a result, students from all majors are exposed to advertisements for jobs at Deloitte or Ernst & Young, regardless of their career interests.
“Our goal is to attract companies to participate in on-campus recruiting,” Associate Director of External Relations for the Career Center David Lapinski M.Ed. ’07 said. “If a company is invested in [its] relationship on campus, [it will] be more of an invested partner in the College.”
Of the Career Center’s nine corporate sponsors, eight are accounting and consulting firms: Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting, Johnson Lambert and Keiter Stephens. The ninth, Capital One, is a bank holding company.
According to Lapinski, corporate sponsorships pay off for accounting and consulting firms that use planned hiring models to fill a predictable number of openings for new employees each year.
“Companies are often worried that their investment pays off when they come to campus,” Lapinski said. “They’re assessing a campus by its outcome to determine its yield. Are they hiring enough students to offset the cost of coming to campus?”
Four levels of sponsorship are available through the Career Center. The highest, Titanium, costs $7,500 per academic year and provides benefits such as naming rights to the Career Center’s interview room and the chance to hold a recruiting event at a home football game. Ernst & Young is the only company sponsoring at this level.
There are three lower levels of sponsorship: Gold sponsorship costs $5,000, Silver $3,500 and Bronze $1,500. All sponsors get access to the “industry targeted resume book,” receive priority placement at career fairs and have their company names displayed on the Career Center’s website and televisions.
Lapinski said that relationships with corporate sponsors are forged through connections with alumni employees, who often return to campus to help recruit seniors. These alumni ties have benefited history and 2-D studio art major Zara Stasi ’12, who has a job lined up with Deloitte’s federal consulting department. She applied for the position after an alumna friend employed by the company recommended she attend an on-campus information session.
“That started getting me interested in Deloitte, getting to meet real people who were doing the job I would be applying for,” Stasi said.
Stasi was selected for an on-campus interview with the company, and after she was hired, alumni representatives took her and other new College hires out to dinner.
Stasi considered a career in museum work, but her uncertainty about what masters program to pursue, concerns about finances and desire to be trained in multiple areas with a company that seemed to value its employees made a job with Deloitte appealing.
“I really appreciated all the help the Career Center gave me, especially as a liberal arts major,” Stasi said. “Some people think the Career Center is only for business students. I hope that that just gets cleared up.”
The message that students of all majors can find employment is a welcome one; but students with dreams of pursuing creative careers do not always feel the Career Center or its corporate sponsors meet their needs.
Hannah McCarthy ’12, an English and film studies double major, described her search for a creative job at this year’s career fair as “disheartening.”
“It was pretty much a resounding, ‘we are hiring people for the business end,’” she said. “I remember they pretty much explicitly told me we’re hiring sales reps, people who are going into business. I asked, ‘What if I want to do something related to creative endeavors?’ And they said, ‘You have to look at that on your own.’”
Opportunities to meet with industry representatives on campus, like Stasi had with Deloitte, are often not available to students looking for creative jobs.
“It’s difficult when you’re trying to do it by yourself and other people have the opportunity to speak to people face to face about what they love,” McCarthy said. “It’s a very different experience than facelessly submitting an application about yourself to an online database. If it’s kept at a distance it becomes intangible and something you have to give up on because it’s so far removed.”
Lapinski explained that many smaller organizations do not have the resources to send delegates to college career fairs.
Even business majors may not be content with the opportunities the College’s corporate sponsors offer. Shariff Tanious ’08, who majored in operations and information systems through the Mason School of Business, worked for Deloitte and another consulting firm after graduation.
Dissatisfied that his jobs did not engage the critical thinking skills he had learned at the College, Tanious left the consulting field to enter medical school.
“It’s tough because the larger firms are the ones that have the biggest recruiting budgets and offer the best salaries,” Tanious said. “So you see the salaries and are thinking about your school loans and it’s very tempting to take those offers.”
Lapinski said that corporate sponsorship money benefits even those students not interested in consulting jobs by enabling the Career Center to host programs about a wide range of job opportunities.
“Funding from those types of programs is utilized to support programs for industries that don’t receive as much exposure,” Lapinski said. “Funding from a corporate sponsorship program helps support a health field symposium. We’re going to be doing an arts symposium.”
In its efforts to diversify the employment opportunities it highlights, the Career Center recently hired a new assistant director, Don Snyder, to focus on science and technology careers.
According to Lapinski, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of companies recruiting science majors on campus. The Career Center has hosted programs this semester about jobs in marine science, environmental science, research labs, science writing and forensic science.
Artistic fields are also receiving more attention. As part of a trip co-sponsored by the department of theatre, speech and dance and the Career Center, a group of 14 students studying drama and dance at the College traveled to Washington, D.C. in March to meet with alumni working in the theatrical world.
Lapinski noted that corporate sponsors’ heightened visibility on campus does not mean they are recruiting a disproportionate number of College graduates.
“Our top employer year in and year out is Teach for America,” he said. “We have some employers do a lot of hiring, but we don’t know specifics because they can’t disclose them, like the CIA.”
Despite the Career Center’s efforts to expand its programming, those emails about how to break into consulting have left McCarthy feeling frustrated.
“It’s a sense of feeling like you’re being pointed and nudged in a direction based on security and not what you’re passionate about,” she said.
Lapinksi said counselors do their best to help students pursue paths that interest them.
“We never try to direct a student toward a career, we just want to make them aware,” he said. “Come in and see us and we can talk about the wealth of other opportunities there are too.”
Even if it’s not a perfect fit, a first job with a consulting firm may be a good way for students to catch a glimpse of the working world.
“I think that the firms that recruit do offer a great opportunity in the sense that they’re going to hire a 22-year-old with little to no experience,” Tanious said. “It’s important for people to keep in mind that this may not be your career, and that’s OK. Take the experience for whatever it’s worth, take from it what you can and move on, and look at opportunities that are not as appealing on the face, but are more beneficial in the long run.”